5/30/18: Borneo Bound!

My final day in Indonesia began with a run.

I ran up north toward Pluit Lake Park. The beginning was hectic, dodging cars and navigating the traffic.

Once I got closer to the lake, there was an awful sulfur smell that permeated the air. Like salted hard-boiled eggs. The lake looked pretty disgusting, too. So murky, anything that went inside would immediately dissolve and die. I’m pretty sure.

Murky AF


Back at the hostel, I had the best breakfast I’ve had in a while: oats with almond butter, a banana, and chocolate corn flakes. Bringing me back to my NYC apartment days.


I packed up, blogged, and ate the rest of my papaya. Then I ordered food from a restaurant near the hostel to take with me to the airport.

At 11, I called my Grab.

I got dropped off at terminal 2 and looked for my flight. I couldn’t find it on any of the boards, so I asked the information desk where AirAsia check-in is. They told me all international flights for AirAsia leave from terminal 3— I’d have to take the Skytrain over there.

I walked down to the ground floor and started walking in the direction of the Skytrain. A taxi driver approached me and asked where I was going.

“The Skytrain.”
“Oh, it’s over that way.”
“Ok thanks.”
“You need a driver?”
“Do you want a driver to take you over there?”
“Um. No thank you.”

Like, really? I’m going to take a 2-minute cab ride??! The fact that he asked was both appalling and admirable. Gotta respect the hustle.

Once I got to terminal 3, I went down the escalator to the ground floor entrance of the airport. However, the security wasn’t letting anyone in those entrances so we had to go back to the Skytrain escalators and up 2 floors to the departure lobby. But can’t you see my backpack is heavy???! Wah.

I finally found my check-in counter, got my boarding passes, and cleared security. Yay for another successful edition of, “Will I be able to skate by AirAsia employees with both my bags that are clearly over 7 kg and not get caught.”

I ate my lunch at my gate. So good! I can’t believe I hadn’t tried the potato cakes (perkedel) until now. I decided to save half of it for dinner because there was a LOT of rice.

Cylindrical packaging

We landed in Kuala Lumpur on time at 5 pm.

I followed the signs to transfers. There was one sign pointing in one direction for international, and another pointing in another direction for domestic. Is Kota Kinabalu considered domestic or international? Is Borneo its own country? Or is it part of Malaysia? I was really unsure. I saw some flight attendants ahead of me, so I caught up to them and asked.

“Is Kota Kinabalu considered domestic?”
“Ok thank you.”

I wonder if that’s a common question or if I’m just stupid…

The transfer was so smooth and easy; I didn’t need to go through the normal immigration process as everyone else who was exiting the airport. There was a separate path for domestic/international transfers, and then that path separated into two: one for domestic, the other for international. The domestic path was completely empty, so I got through immigration in record time.

I ate the rest of my lunch and then boarded my flight.

After some major turbulence, we landed safely in KK at 9:30, and I was out of the airport by 10 pm.

I called a Grab. The driver was super friendly and talkative. He kept telling me about the three Americans from San Fransisco that he had taken around all day. He apparently runs a tour agency in addition to being a Grab driver.

He also told me how he’s sad about the Grab acquisition of Uber in SE Asia. It’s harder to get customers because all the tourists have the Uber app, but not all of them have the Grab app. I always thought the acquisition was a good thing, so it was interesting to hear the downsides of it.

KK is way more modern than I thought it would be. I honestly thought it would be old, rundown, and small. I mean, it’s Borneo. Isn’t Borneo all just jungle and wildlife??!

But no. This city was big, clean, and new.

I also noticed that the Malay and Indonesian languages are very similar: The word for “thank you” (terima kasih), “exit” (keluar), and a lot of other everyday words like good morning and goodbye are pretty much the same.

The driver dropped me off, telling me my hostel was up the elevator of a nearby building.

Upon entering the elevator and seeing that my hostel was not in the building, I realized that he had dropped me off at the wrong place.

Mine was a few blocks away.

I stood in the same spot that Google Maps said the hostel was, but I couldn’t see it anywhere. I walked to the next block, thinking maybe it was on the other side, but no. Nothing.

I walked back to the other street and did another round up and down. I still couldn’t find it, so I asked a shopkeeper if he knew where Escape Backpackers was.

He then pointed me in the completely wrong direction.

I knew he was wrong, so I walked into a restaurant to ask again. Surely someone around here knows about the hostel on their street.

The cashier told me, “that way,” and pointed in the general northern direction. That was the extent of her specificity.

I walked out and almost started crying because I never thought I would find it. I felt helpless.

I did another round up the block, this time deciding to look super close at the doors to see if it was hidden.

I saw a TINY sign that said, “Escape Backpackers” next to a totally nondescript white door with no handle.

Freaking finally!

I pressed the bell button and a lady came down a few minutes later.

She was super friendly, and I felt a bit bad for being annoyed that their hostel was so hard to find.

I got in my room, got dressed for bed, and went to sleep. I had to be up early tomorrow morning to hike Kinabalu Park with two friends I had met in Cambodia, Emily and Johanna, who were coincidentally also in Borneo at the same time.

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